Every year we find a new set of necessary lenten ingredients, something to take the edge off of forty days with no take-out Chinese. Usually something flavorful and diverse, something that can impart a lot of flavor into a variety of dishes. Ginger root, or avocado; sundried tomatoes, or various mustards. Beans and rice was just starting to get boring when a friend introduced us to Salsa Lizano, a delicious, mild sauce that added depth to pretty much everything we ate that Lent. Okay, one year it was vegetarian chicken nuggets but that was more towards the end of the forty days and we were getting desperate. This year it's another sauce that's in the spotlight: Salsa Valentina, God's gift to the world of hot sauce.
Lent is no longer Lent in my mind without something spicy to put on everything. And this sauce is absolutely perfect. It's not unbearable in it's spiciness but it doesn't wuss out either. And there's actually flavor in there too, this is not a sauce for those meat-head bros out there who just want to prove how many different ways they can sear their tongues (God bless 'em). And best of all it can become so many things, on so many different foods.
It can be butter because it's absolutely amazing on potatoes. Not that they're not awesome by themselves but having something to put on your spuds makes them far more appealing as an approved-across-the-board Lenten food.
It can be cream cheese because it's great on smoked salmon and toast (just not with the capers). A little avocado, a little cucumber, maybe some hummus, and a generous dollop of Salsa Valentina and you've just re-invented the (weekend appropriate) breakfast of champions.
It can be yogurt because it mixes well with mustard for a killer pretzel dip. Pretzels are another of those Lenten life-lines because they have nothing in them except carbs and salt. Okay, sometimes canola oil but that doesn't count. But as wonderful as they are they can suffer if there's never anything to dip them in and mustard gets lonely. Sure, it's good friends with honey but what if you don't want something sweet?
These are but a few examples of Salsa Valentina's diversity; obviously it's great on anything even remotely Mexican (like beans and rice, fish tacos, a tortilla chip), and in a world where you don't give up eggs, it's great on them too. It's probably not so fantastic on desserts but Lent is long so we'll see. But hands down the finest achievement of Salsa Valentina is being a key ingredient to a Michelada, a spicy beer cocktail.
The recipe I use is a slightly modified version of the one found in "Antojitos: Festive and Flavorful Mexican Small Plates" by Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Malfy, a book well worth buying. For ingredients you will need:
chile salt (a mixture or 3:1 salt to chile powder, super easy and great on food too)
1 1/2 oz Salsa Valentina
1 1/2 oz Salsa Lizano (or Salsa Maggi, or Worcestershire Sauce)
2 oz lime juice
1 bottle Mexican beer of your choice (I recommend Sol, but it totally works with Corona too)
Rub the rim of you glass with a lime wedge and dip in the chile salt.
Throw in some ice and add both Salsa's and the lime juice.
Mix and fill the rest of the glass with beer, serve with a lime wedge and the remaining beer on the side to refresh the mix. Spicy, refreshing, and totally Lent appropriate. But keep the recipe for the rest of the year too because nothing goes with this drink like some sweet and sour chicken.